Alert Plus – Extensive Flooding Following Heavy Rainfall
SITUATION SUMMARY Hundreds of people are reportedly unaccounted for following the worst flooding in decades in north-western Germany. Record rainfall has caused rivers to burst their banks and led to widespread devastation in the region. In Germany, more than 80 people are reported to have been killed, while across the border in Belgium, at least 12 people have lost their lives. In Germany, the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia have been the worst affected. Photos have shown urban areas inundated, cars swept away and, in Cologne, the Rhine River close to bursting its banks. There have also been numerous bridge collapses and roads blocked alongside power failures, hampering rescue efforts. A dam, the Rurtalsperre close to the Belgium border, has also failed, while the Steinbachtalsperre, between Ahrweiler and Erftstadt, is unstable. Emergency services have been deployed with efforts ongoing to account for those currently unaccounted for. In Belgium, the rainfall has heavily impacted the country’s east. Even the city of Liege, the third-largest urban centre in Belgium, has been sharply impacted with numerous houses flooded. Around 10 houses collapsed in the Pepinster region are the river Vesdre flooded. A further 1,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes due to fears that further buildings would collapse and/or be inundated. Switzerland has also seen flooding with officials in Lucerne deploying mobile defences. France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have also been impacted by the heavy rainfall. Footage widely circulated on social media has shown the extent of the floods. In Verviers, Belgium, cars were videotaped being swept down the road with onlookers stating that the water was at least 2 metres in depth in some places. Aerial footage has also shown the extent of the flooding, with floodwaters covering whole towns in some places. SOLACE GLOBAL COMMENT These are Germany’s worst floods since 2002 when inundations occurred around the Elbe River. The flooding at the time was billed by the German media as “once-in-a-century floods”. They resulted in 21 deaths in eastern Germany and more than 100 fatalities across central Europe. Such extreme weather is only likely to increase in the coming years due to climate change. Indeed, the Premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet, has blamed the extreme weather on global warming. Indeed, it has been widely reported by the scientific community that periods of extreme rainfall, such as what northern Europe is experiencing right now, would become more common due to human-induced climate change. Outside of the region, the UK was hit by severe flooding earlier in the week. Here, scientists have condemned the government, stating that the country was even less, not more, prepared for extreme weather than it was five years ago. As a result, further extreme weather events, such as those seen in Germany and Belgium, are likely to only increase in the coming years. Indeed, heavy flooding has been a regular occurrence throughout Europe and the western world. This is despite positive advancements in flood defences in the past decades. For example, in the UK between late 2019 and early 2020, heavy flooding and extreme weather saw numerous regions flooded and widespread infrastructural damage. Additionally, in France in 2016 and 2020 there was heavy flooding, including in and around Paris and in the country’s southeast. Indeed, the 2020 flooding was accompanied by unprecedented extreme weather. Finally, just last week, Japan saw a number of fatalities following heavy rain and a landslide in Atami City. Travellers and businesses should be prepared for further disruption, damage and threat to life as a result of climate change-driven extreme weather. SOLACE GLOBAL ADVICE
- Strictly follow all official instructions and adhere to any directives given by emergency services.
- If advised to evacuate any areas, follow the instructions given by the authorities.
- Ensure all routes are clear prior to beginning journeys and expect heavy delays, even in areas not affected by flooding.
- If a route is blocked by inundations, turn around and find an alternative route. Do not drive through water of an undetermined depth and do not attempt to cross, by vehicle or on foot, any moving water.
- Monitor the latest weather forecast via local agencies; these are available here: Germany, Belgium, France and Netherlands.
- Keep relatives and friends abreast of your location
- Due to the damage caused by the flooding, avoid wading through any flooded area, downed powerlines may result in the water being electrified.
- Infrastructure may be compromised resulting in the tainting of drinking water. As such, only drink bottled water and avoid using tap water for the coming days.
- Keep the electricity turned off if possible also turn off gas and water supplies.
- Avoid allowing mobile devices to run low on battery, power cuts are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
- Ensure you have adequate supplies of bottled water and non-perishable food. A torch with spare batteries and warm, waterproof clothing are also important